Friday, March 31, 2006

What I've been reading

Finished a few review books I was happily inundated with recently... Two are excellent treatments, but, regrettably, another was perhaps one of publishing's greatest wastes of compressed wood pulp (maybe I'll save it for a 'worst book I read this year' posting). But on to what's good about Civil War publishing.

Ironclad's No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar is a definitive piece of the military history of Sherman's Carolinas Campaign. I get the feeling that most authors are so spent near a project's completion that the analysis section, which is always positioned at the end, often suffers. It feels rushed, belabored by obvious points, and spare with detail as compared with previous chapters. Not so here. The authors (Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky) are career military officers and their critical analysis of the campaign is truly impressive.

University of Kentucky Press's Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky And Virginia is a fine introduction to the Civil War in the Big Sandy Valley and the mountain divide between eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. It's coverage is broad in scope, touching on military leaders and events (both regular and irregular) as well as analyzing how social, political, religious, and economic ties factored into determining regional loyalties and support for the war. Brian McKnight's work here is the first really comprehensive examination of the Civil War in this particular region of Appalachia. I look forward to his future work.

**If you're interested, my reviews of these two books will probably appear in the next issue or two of North and South magazine and will be republished later on here as well.

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